Perhaps realizing that his position as PRIME Minister had some mathematical implications, and certainly aware of France's history of trying to be able to monitor all encrypted traffic passing through his country, Prime Minister Fran&ccdeil;ois Fillon has apparently decided to become the French Minister of Primes, decreeing that all primes used in public-key encryption within or transiting France must be approved by the French Government's newly established Département de Cryptographie. Apart from the potential for increased surveillance, this decree could actually constructively reduce the likelihood of a prime being used multiple times in different public keys -- a risk recently observed in various certificates that leads to opportunities for forged certificates and security compromises (RISKS-26.73).
An unmanned MQ-9 (Predator B) drone crashed near the airport in Nogales, Arizona on 25 April 2006. The recently released final analysis suggests a combination of events relating to intricacies of the system design, confusing user interfaces, not-entirely anticipated human/system failure modes, and long missions requiring multiple users sequentially taking over control. This tends to reinforces our long-held thought in RISKS that attempts to put the blame in one place are often misguided. In this case, as in many others discussed here, there were quite a few contributing factors. The report (URL below) is long, but very well worth reading carefully as a parable for RISKS. http://www.ntsb.gov/aviationquery/brief2.aspx?ev_id=20060509X00531&ntsbno=CHI06MA121&akey=1
Pam Fessler, Online Voting 'Premature,' Warns Government Cybersecurity Expert, ItsAllPolitics, NPR Blog, 29 Mar 2012 http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/03/29/149634764/online-voting-premature-warns-government-cybersecurity-expert Warnings about the dangers of Internet voting have been growing as the 2012 election nears, and an especially noteworthy one came Thursday from a top cybersecurity official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Bruce McConnell told a group of election officials, academics and advocacy groups meeting in Santa Fe, N.M., that he believes "it's premature to deploy Internet voting in real elections at this time." McConnell said voting systems are vulnerable and, "when you connect them to the Internet, that vulnerability increases." He called security around Internet voting "immature and underresourced." McConnell's comments echo those of a number of computer scientists who say there's no way to protect votes cast over the Internet from outside manipulation. But right now a growing number of states are allowing overseas and military voters to return their marked ballots by digital fax or email, which experts say raises the same threat. It's part of a recent push to make voting easier for millions of Americans overseas, who often are prevented from voting because of slow ballot delivery and missed deadlines. The Federal Voting Assistance Program at the Pentagon and other groups have been working recently to make it easier for overseas Americans and those in the military to register to vote online and to download their ballots. The question is whether it's safe to return the voted ballot online. Some election officials say it's a trade-off between security and convenience. Bob Carey, director of FVAP, told a group of bloggers in October that there are risks to online voting, but also "inherent security risks with the current system," such as people not getting their ballots on time and losing the opportunity to vote. Carey added that "there's not going to be any electronic voting system that's ever going to be 100 percent secure, but also the current paper-based system is not 100 percent reliable either." The Pentagon is exploring the possibility of expanding e-voting opportunities for the military and overseas Americans. A handful of states are also considering pilot programs that would allow voters to vote directly online, as West Virginia did in 2010. The District of Columbia had to cancel its online voting plans in 2010 after University of Michigan computer experts were able to infiltrate the system and remotely change votes. Some people think online voting is bound to happen, though, once the kinks are worked out. But as McConnell's comments show, those who worry a lot about cybersecurity believe that time is a long way away.
Devlin Barrett, *Wall Street Journal*, 28 Mar 2012 [PGN-ed] Shawn Henry, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's top cyber cop offered a grim appraisal of the nation's efforts to keep computer hackers from plundering corporate data networks: "We're not winning." He said that the current public and private approach to fending off hackers is “unsustainable.'' Computer criminals are simply too talented and defensive measures too weak to stop them. You never get ahead, never become secure, never have a reasonable expectation of privacy or security,''
An auto corrected text message, accidentally sent to the wrong number, was the catalyst to lockdowns Wednesday at West Hall middle and high-schools. [...] The text, saying "gunman be at west hall today," was received and reported to police around 11:30 a.m. But after police tracked the number, they learned the auto correct feature on the new cellphone changed "gunna" to "gunman." The message being sent to the wrong number added to the confusion. http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/archives/63990/ [I wonder what would have happened if the student had tried to write "gonna", the traditional spelling of this non-word.] Jim Reisert AD1C, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, http://www.ad1c.us
A ship dropped anchor off Mombasa, Kenya, and cut the Internet to six African countries earlier this week. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2012/0229/Ship-s-anchor-cuts-Internet-access-to-six-East-African-countries Jim Reisert AD1C, <email@example.com>, http://www.ad1c.us
A laptop stolen from NASA last year contained command codes used to control the International Space Station, an internal investigation has found. The laptop, which was not encrypted, was among dozens of mobile devices lost or stolen in recent years that contained sensitive information, the space agency's inspector general told Congress today in testimony highlighting NASA's security challenges. "The March 2011 theft of an unencrypted NASA notebook computer resulted in the loss of the algorithms used to command and control the International Space Station," NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin said in written testimony (PDF). Another laptop contained sensitive information on the NASA's Constellation and Orion programs, as well as Social Security numbers, he said. http://m.cnet.com/Article.rbml?nid=57388136&cid=null&bcid=&bid=-83 Jim Reisert AD1C, <firstname.lastname@example.org>, http://www.ad1c.us
"The witnesses allege a software company NDS, owned by News Corp, cracked the smart card codes of rival company ONdigital. ONdigital, owned by the ITV companies Granada and Carlton, eventually went under amid a welter of counterfeiting by pirates, leaving the immensely lucrative pay-TV field clear for Sky." http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/mar/26/news-corp-ondigital-paytv-panorama Unlike the "phone-hacking" scandal, which mainly involved reporters listening to answering machines whose owners hadn't bothered to set their passwords, this (if it pans out) seems to feature actual computer malfeasance. Charles C. Mann, P.O. Box 66, Amherst, MA, 01004-0066 www.charlesmann.org
http://j.mp/GIuwRC (Sydney Morning Herald) "Officers in the Hi Tech Crime Investigation Unit on wardriving missions will drive the streets of Brisbane with a laptop computer, looking for unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Residents and businesses owners in targeted areas will then be mailed information about how to effectively secure their connection. Police will return to the area some time later to check whether residents have taken heed of the warning."
Brian Krebs: MasterCard, VISA Warn of Processor Breach, 30 Mar 2012 VISA and MasterCard are alerting banks across the country about a recent major breach at a U.S.-based credit card processor. Sources in the financial sector are calling the breach "massive," and say it may involve more than 10 million compromised card numbers. In separate non-public alerts sent late last week, VISA and MasterCard began warning banks about specific cards that may have been compromised. The card associations stated that the breached credit card processor was compromised between 21 Jan 2012 and 25 Feb 2012. The alerts also said that full Track 1 and Track 2 data was taken - meaning that the information could be used to counterfeit new cards. Neither VISA nor MasterCard have said which U.S.-based processor was the source of the breach. But affected banks are now starting to analyze transaction data on the compromised cards, in hopes of finding a common point of purchase. Sources at two different major financial institutions said the transactions that most of the cards they analyzed seem to have in common are that they were used in parking garages in and around the New York City area. ... New credit card data breach revealed Avivah Litan, KrebsOnSecurity.com, 30 Mar 2012 http://krebsonsecurity.com/2012/03/mastercard-visa-warn-of-processor-breach/ Just when we thought the big credit card data breaches were over, at least for a while (with Alberto Gonzalez put away after his scams at TJX, Heartland Payments and others) - along comes a new one reported today in www.Krebsonsecurity.com. See KrebsOnSecurity.com Visa and MasterCard have already issued warnings on this. I've spoken with folks in the card business who are seeing signs of this breach mushroom. Looks like the hackers have started using the stolen card data more recently. From what I hear, the breach involves a taxi and parking garage company in the New York City area so if you've paid a NYC cab in the last few months with your credit or debit card - be sure to check your card statements for possible fraud. ... http://blogs.gartner.com/avivah-litan/2012/03/30/new-credit-card-data-breach-revealed/
(Cameron Scott) Cameron Scott, Study finds major weaknesses in single-sign-on systems Researchers were able to deceive both OpenID and Facebook authentication IT Business, 27 Mar 2012 http://www.itbusiness.ca/it/client/en/CDN/News.asp?id=66741 selected text: In one of the flaws the researchers exposed, for example, not all Web sites confirmed that a verification coming from OpenID included all of the items the Web site asked to be confirmed, such as the first name, last name and email address. The researchers were able to access the request, delete one piece of requested information (the email address, for example) as it went to OpenID and simply re-insert it in the signed okay from OpenID. In this way, even a hacker who didn't control the email address linked to the user's account on the Web site in question could log in, and potentially make purchases, using that person's account.
"Swedish telecom operators want to implement technologies that will block mobile phone users in Sweden from making free calls using services like Skype and Viber." (The Local; http://j.mp/H5Uq1T)
A Moral Network post highlights the public interest implications of retiring the PSTN in favor of an all-IP network. Daniel Berninger, Founder, Voice Communication Exchange Committee e: email@example.com, tel SD: +220.127.116.1138 w: www.vcxc.org The Moral Network, Daniel Berninger The customer exodus makes retirement of the circuit switched PSTN in favor of an all-IP network inevitable and maybe even imminent. It puts the entire $2 trillion global voice revenue base in play and restarts the bellhead versus nethead wars. A nethead victory lap remains out of the question while voice still accounts for more than twice the revenue of data services. Preserving the voice value proposition requires achieving PSTN like reliability, ubiquity, and uniformity in an IP context. This task remains better suited to the sensibility of bellheads than netheads. The special status society assigns to voice carries public interest obligations. The implications of these moral considerations underlie the differences between bellhead and nethead modes of operation. Internet voice lacks the interconnection, reliability, and ease of use necessary to replicate the PSTN revenue model. The aggregate revenue of the over-the-top VoIP ecosystem (e.g Skype et al) represents less than 1% of the voice total. The revenue that VoIP players do collect owes mainly to the bellhead PSTN. The myriad of Internet enabled communication options destroying the economics of the PSTN demonstrate only the ability of netheads to erase revenue. The IP world cannot not replicate the reach of the PSTN as long as the competitive landscape remains driven by the power politics of network size. Skype claims more registered users than China Mobile, but as a closed network end points online at any time represent a tiny fraction of the six billion phones reachable via the PSTN. The PSTN suffered similar fragmentation until public interest considerations led governments to impose interconnection. Even the commercial peering agreements associated with the Internet got their start via government interconnection mandates during the commercialization of the Internet backbone in 1995. Mixing network engineering with morality will seem odd to netheads, but bellhead experience with public interest obligations goes back 100 years. Theodore Vail's embrace of the moral obligations governing human communication made AT&T the exception as countries nationalized their telephone companies. The course of communication in this century turns on whether or not a Theodore Vail like ethic for IP networks emerges. The track record suggests hardship for both incumbent telcos and wannabe service providers of the over-to-top ecosystem to the extent the anarchy persists. It turns out following a moral compass maximizes enterprise value of communication networks. This owes to the same reasons citizens prosper in a moral society and suffer in an amoral one. The application of a moral code recognizes the service of self-interest sometimes involves maximizing benefits for the group rather than the individual. This remains true even given the flawed mechanisms and uneven track record of applying public interest obligations to the PSTN. The collective value of the post breakup AT&T increased six fold during the 12 years of Judge Greene's public interest stewardship before the Telecom Act of 1996. The benefits of deregulation and consolidation leave the Bell companies trading in the same range today as they did in 1996. The question of whether the transition to all-IP networks produces a downward spiral or lifts enterprise value turns on the moral considerations driving interconnection, universal service, and recognizing the special status of voice services in society. Declining demand for plain-old-telephone-service does not alter the fact voice remains the most efficient means of human communication and a key input to economic activity. The revenue stream available to "dumb pipes" for over-the-top services falls short of the return on capital necessary to justify network investments. Network operators will continue to rely on bellhead services for the bulk of revenue in all-IP networks as they did in the case of the PSTN. Carrier IP provisioning of services makes it easier to provide a consistent user interface and hide device setup complexity. An all-IP HD voice service can emerge as a straight line extension of the PSTN managed federation for standard definition voice. The long odds of finding the next big thing driving demand for IP network capacity nonetheless makes the nethead over-the-top essential to the all-IP network ecosystem. The complementary strengths and weaknesses of bellhead and nethead services allow both to coexist in an all-IP network.
Robert X. Cringely, Linux 3.3: Finally a little good news for bufferbloat 25 Mar 2012, via Dave Farber's IP [Note: Cringely is a pen-name for multiple authors, all of whom do not cringe easily.] http://www.cringely.com/2012/03/linux-3-3-finally-a-little-good-news-for-bufferbloat/ While I was out chasing computer history last week, the Linux 3.3 kernel was released. And a very interesting release it is, though not for its vaunted re-inclusion of certain Android kernel hacks. I think that modest move is being overblown in the press. No, Linux 3.3 appears to be the first OS to really take a shot at reducing the problem of bufferbloat. It's not the answer to this scourge, but it will help some, especially since Linux is so popular for high volume servers. Bufferbloat, as you'll recall from my 2011 predictions column, is the result of our misguided attempt to protect streaming applications (now 80 percent of Internet packets) by putting large memory buffers in modems, routers, network cards, and applications. These cascading buffers interfere with each other and with the flow control built into TCP from the very beginning, ultimately breaking that flow control, making things far worse than they'd be if all those buffers simply didn't exist. Bufferbloat was named by Jim Gettys of Bell Labs, who has become our chief defender against the scourge, attempting to coordinate what's become a global response to the problem. Linux 3.3 isn't the total solution to bufferbloat but it's a big step, particularly for servers. Prepare for technospeak. One issue is the very large ring buffers described above. A typical device driver has these buffers set at 200-300 packets, a figure derived a decade ago as a worst case to allow devices to drive Gig-Ethernet flat-out using small packets. But not all packets are small, and there's the rub. Because these rings are necessarily expressed in packets, rather than in bytes, the length of time to transmit the packet can be radically different and this meant the arbitrary buffers can be up to 20 times larger than they need to be when sending big packets. These rings are often constrained to be powers of two in size, and the size can't easily be changed at runtime without dropping packets [...] Dewayne-Net RSS Feed: <http://www.warpspeed.com/wordpress>
A UK parliamentary report has booted Google for its attitude towards court-ordered privacy injunctions, noting that it must comply with UK law or face a legislative battle. [Source: Zack Whittaker, ZDNet, 27 Mar 2012] http://www.zdnet.com/blog/london/google-facebook-twitter-warned-in-privacy-report/3662
"A bill on "information-technology crimes" with extraordinarily broad wording and harsh punishments is due to come before Iraq's parliament in April, once the dignitaries and television cameras at this week's Arab League summit in Baghdad have departed. The bill is one of four proposed laws that could severely restrict basic freedoms. (A fifth, on journalists, was passed last summer.) Access Now, a human-rights group with a focus on technology, has a report on it out today. According to an English translation from last August, it includes mandatory life sentences for using computers or the internet to "compromise" the "unity" of the state (Article 3), promote "ideas which are disruptive to public order" (Article 4), or engage in "trafficking, promoting or facilitating the abuse of drugs" (Article 5), which could include merely blogging about them." [The Economist, http://j.mp/H4W6x7]
Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count? CSLI Publications, (Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford, California 2012, 447+xiii pp., paperback In my opinion, this is the most thorough, well researched, and definitive publication on this subject that has ever been written—despite the reality that it was under perpetual gestation for many years, because the ground under our elections has continually shifted, although often not for the better. Proponents of commercial system and Internet voting undoubtedly will not like it, because it truly documents a reality in which the seams are unseemly, the depth of risks is pervasive, and the absence of meaningful accountability is almost unbelievable. But it is one of the most important books around for those who believe in democracy.
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